It’s that time again. When Australian’s are supposed to celebrate our founding day. Yet, for many of our First Nation’s People, Australia Day symbolises ‘Survival’, ‘Invasion’ and most painfully, a ‘Day of Mourning’. Recognising the sombre meaning for Indigenous Australians, Cricket Australia is standing its ground by not referring to 26 January as “Australia Day” as part of its Big Bash League (BBL) promotion.
Promoting cultural inclusion and respect, influential sporting organisations and numerous local councils across Australia have tried to respectfully open the conversation by opting to drop the term altogether.
Cricket Australia has been leading the way by removing all references to its BBL promotions after consultation with its Indigenous advisory committee. As part of its effort to normalise the conversation over the contentious date, three BBL clubs will also be wearing Indigenous-inspired uniforms in matches on 23, 25 and 26 January.
Co-chair of Cricket Australia’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee Mel Jones said she backed the decision not to refer to ‘Australia Day’.
“We’ve got five Indigenous players playing those games and a lot of Indigenous fans that come to the cricket, we just want to make this space as safe and inclusive as possible,” said Ms Jones.
This comes as Federal member for Warringah and Winter Olympian Zali Steggall leads the charge to have a minute’s silence be observed on Australia Day.
“January 26 provokes a range of emotions for many within our community,” said Ms Steggall.
Historically, 26 January is a date of significance to many, as it marks the arrival of the First Fleet landing in 1788 in New South Wales.
“While it marks the commencement of European colonisation of this land, it also represents the commencement of violence, disempowerment and displacement of our Indigenous communities that …(have) created sorrow, discrimination and hardship that has lasted for generations.”
The gesture could provide some level of acknowledgement and maybe a step towards national healing.
“It is only right that we acknowledge all that this day represents and build remembrance into our ceremonies to recognise the price that has been paid by First Australians.”
Tanya Hosch, a Torres Strait Islander woman in the AFL’s executive general manager has championed the rights of Indigenous players within Australian Football. In her role for inclusion and social policy, she was instrumental in securing an apology from the AFL for former Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes, following the racial vilification he endured throughout the final years of his football career.
She says it is time for a mature conversation in Australia to permanently change the national holiday.
“I’m definitely one of those Australians who think we’ve got an opportunity for a nation-building moment to change the date that we hold ‘Australia Day’ on,” said Ms Hosch.
She explained that day comes into question every year and remains unresolved until is it revisited each year.
“I think that would be a great conversation for us to have as a nation. Because we have the conversation perennially — like every 12 months, we have the conversation — we have the same debates and the same ideas, but we don’t ever seem to resolve it.”
Confronting as it may be, change is a fact of life. As a country, we must fully come to terms with our history and heal from the past; if we are to grow. The leadership of sporting bodies and other organisations gives little reason left for those resistant to change.